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Where is Jesus?

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If you heard the name of Jesus for the first time, where would you look for Him? Would you look for Him in a closet or behind a curtain wondering where He was? Here in the United States most people know where Jesus can be found. Unfortunately, less than 1 percent of the people of Japan have heard of Him. It is considered the second largest unreached country in the world.

Studies have shown that Japanese students are 30 times more likely to respond to the gospel when they study abroad. Nozomi, one of 130 million Japanese, was handpicked by God to come into my home. In 1996, Nozomi’s American host family was unable to board her anymore, so I readily welcomed her.

Looking for Jesus in a Closet

On Sundays she would attend Christ Community Church (Omaha, Neb.) with me, look around, and think, Isn’t this something? All these people have been brainwashed into believing in this God. However, she kept coming because she enjoyed the music and the college ministry. As she continued to spend time around other Christians, God began opening the eyes of her heart.

Many evenings we had dinner together, and one evening I said, “I’m going to retire early. I want to go spend some time with Jesus.”

A group of Crown College students traveled to Japan last summer to help a church plant. Photo courtesy of Julie Arant

My statement was obviously confusing to Nozomi. She went into her room and thought, That sounds kind of strange. I wonder where Jesus is in here. She searched her closet, peeked behind her curtains, and looked up at the ceiling, but she couldn’t find Him. Finally, she knocked on my door. “How do you find Jesus?” she asked.

“The Bible says that if you search for Him with your whole heart, you’ll find Him,” I replied. “Do you want to start reading the Bible together?” She agreed.

Soon, we read Genesis where God comes looking for Adam and Eve, saying, “Adam, where are you?”

“God is saying, ‘Nozomi, where are you?’” I said. “He loves you, and He’s looking for you. Ask Him to show Himself to you, to make Himself real.”

Every night she prayed, “Jesus, if You’re real, will You show me?” As a polite Japanese student, Nozomi had many questions and doubts that she kept buried in her heart. Despite these doubts, the love of Jesus was so compelling that He became irresistible to her.

One day at church we sang, “I sing a song of praise to my Savior, to my Jesus.” Just then, as the love of God filled Nozomi, she reached over and touched my arm, saying with joyful tears, “Julie, He wants to be my Savior, my Jesus!” We went into the hallway together where she gave her heart to Christ.

Reaching Japan with Music

I took Nozomi to a Christian conference soon after, and the speakers were talking about how Japan is so unreached but that gospel music is popular among Japanese college students. Her heart was burdened to reach these young people, and as she prayed, God gave her a vision.

One day she came to me and said, “I think we’re supposed to form a gospel music team and perform concerts across Japan.”   

“We can’t do that,” I said.

“Oh, Julie, we have to! Japan needs Jesus!” She started praying, “Jesus, send us to Japan!”

I joined her, saying, “Yes, Jesus send us!”

Julie (left), Nozomi (second from right), and her daughter Lia (middle) with two Crown college leaders during their trip to Japan. Photos courtesy of Julie Arant.

I went to one of our worship pastors a few days later and asked him if we could take a team to give concerts in Japan. He said it was impossible. There were too many barriers; it would be too expensive, and the timing just didn’t seem right. So, I went back to Nozomi and told her what he said.

“No!” she replied. “Japan needs Jesus! Jesus send us!” she prayed.

A few days later, a different worship pastor from my church approached me. “Julie, God has been speaking to me,” he said. “He wants us to give concerts across Japan.”

In the summer of 2001, a worship team from Christ Community Church did just that. A seminary student we knew in Japan arranged everything for us. We gave ourselves a name and made posters. For three weeks, we gave concerts across Osaka—at train stations, auditoriums, churches, and on the streets. Nozomi and another Japanese believer shared their testimonies at every concert.

An Unquenchable Spirit

When we got back to the States, Nozomi turned to me. “Julie!”

I thought, Oh no. Now what?

“I think God is calling me back to Japan,” she said. “Coffee is really popular among college students. I want to start a coffee-shop ministry.”

Starting off as a young, quiet, Japanese college student who could barely speak English, Nozomi surprised me as I watched God transform her into this tenacious visionary evangelist.

Sure enough, she joined a team and returned to Japan. They bought a small building across the street from a university and started leading students to Christ through a coffee-shop ministry.

An American missionary named Kevin was a part of that ministry. Soon Kevin and Nozomi fell in love and got married. For many years, they led scores of Japanese to Christ through the coffee-shop ministry. Recently they caught a vision to start planting churches, so they joined a church-planting ministry and have planted two churches in Kobe and Kyoto.

Last year I visited them with a team from Crown College to encourage and help them with their church plant. The team supplied funds, built a worship stage, helped run a large neighborhood outreach, and served at a special-needs camp.

The gospel music team Julie and Nozomi formed in the summer of 2001 to minister to students in Japan. Photos courtesy of Julie Arant.

Many people, particularly Buddhists, are coming to faith because of Kevin and Nozomi’s faithfulness. The first person I met when walking into their church was a woman who had just become a Christian and was getting baptized the following Sunday.

We attended their Sunday service and saw more than 70 people fill the small church building, formerly a motorcycle repair shop. They lingered long after the service was over, celebrating with joy for the new community they found at last in the family of God.

In the beginning, Nozomi didn’t know where or how to find Jesus—she even searched in a closet. But God revealed Himself to Nozomi and burdened her with helping others in Japan find Jesus. She found Him to be the light of the world, and that light is shining brightly in her life today throughout Japan.

2 responses to Where is Jesus?

  1. What an encouraging story for all the ESL teachers in the Akron area who love our many Japanese students, many of which are the wives of Bridgestone Tire employees.

    Most of them never heard of Jesus before coming to Ohio, but now we see more and more attending Bible Studies to learn about Jesus and the Bible.

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